Thursday, December 02, 2010

BBC - Mind The Gap: Why do south London trains suffer most in the snow?

BBC - Mind The Gap: Why do south London trains suffer most in the snow?

Another proof that our transport system is antiquated and no longuer fit for purpose:
In south London the companies like Southern Railway, Southeastern and South West Trains have to operate using the "third rail system".That is, the electricity is transmitted to the train using an electrified third rail that the train picks up through a bit of metal called a shoe. So, while Network Rail have been running "ghost trains" (empty trains) and de-icing trains through the night there comes a point when it doesn't help.
When the snow and ice hits, if the conductor third rail is cold as soon as snow hits it, it freezes.

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Friday, November 05, 2010

Giving up infrastructure is rarely a good deal for users and tax payers

Read this am: BBC News - High-speed rail link London to Folkestone is sold

Since it cost GBP 5bn and was sold for 2.1b, I'm failing to see where's the "great news for tax payers and rail users". For the latter, the failure of British Rail privatisation and of the tube PPP maintenance contracts clearly shows that selling out transportation infrastructure is a dodgy bet for the least.
When it works, it usually means giving private companies a nice little monopoly and a steady cash flow -take the French privatisation of motorways for instance, where more is going to share holders and less to building of new roads (which was incidentally the excuse in the first place for instoring tolls on those autoroutes).
But usually it doesn't work, and either companies end up bust with taxpayer having to mop up the collateral damage. Think the great

Plus relinquishing a tool to boost a nation's economy and litterally shape a nation fabric is neither a good news for users. Prove me wrong...

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Waterloo: more Boris Bikes but still no sign of life for the Eurostar old platforms

1009_waterloo.jpgTwo good posts this week on Londonist.
  • The first one is on the continuing mystery of the old Eurostar platforms and why they cost £4.1 to keep in mothball state -quite a good example for a pathetic failure on behalf of people in charge of the nation's rail infrastructure. It's especially enraging when you're waiting on the approach to the station in a commuter train for a platform...  I've blogged before about this, see links below.
  • And it looks like TfL has heard about my winging on Boris Bike stations being located far away from stations: Huge New Cycle Hire Station For Waterloo.  Shame common sense did not prevail in the first place, I still wonder why they looked at Montreal rather than Paris for municipal cycle hire best practices...

See my previous posts on those subjects:

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Monday, October 11, 2010

North Sheen level crossing: don't miss the public meeting on the 21st

As posted todat on the Facebook group: Stuck at North Sheen Level Crossing, there will be a public meeting about the level crossing with Zac Goldsmith, Network Rail and local councillors at DUKE STREET CHURCH in DUKE STREET, RICHMOND on THURSDAY 21st OCTOBER at 7.30pm. Bring your tales of misery and woe!

See my previous posts on the level crossings:

  • Near miss at North Sheen level crossing

  • Some news on the level crossing: consultation next Thursday!

  • At last: the North Sheen footbridge is coming... alas, this is not what you expected!

  • Richmond Transits: Join the Facebook group "Stuck at North Sheen

  • Richmond Transits: Airtrack and North Sheen Crossing

  • Richmond Transits: Monday Mayhem at North Sheen level crossing

  • Richmond Transits: Update on the North Sheen station footbridge

  • Richmond Transits: Here's the new camera at North Sheen level crossing

  • Richmond Transits: Update on the update on the North Sheen station

  • Richmond Transits: Susan Kramer's progress on North Sheen Station

  • Richmond Transits: Another train tragedy in waiting at North

  • Richmond Transits: Still waiting at the level crossing...

  • Traffic pandemonium: just a sign of things to come?

  • More on Manor road and Heathrow

  • Richmond Transits: Level crossing tragedy in Barnes

  • Richmond Transits: Update on the North Sheen station footbridge

  • Richmond Transits: Preliminary plans for North Sheen footbridge rebuffed

  • Richmond Transits: Campaing for suppressing level crossings

  • Richmond Transits: Richmond and Twickenham Times: Commuters see red over level crossing

  • Richmond Transits: Susan Kramer's progress on North Sheen Station footbridge

  • Richmond Transits: Time to remind Susan Kramer about the North Sheen Station footbridge

  • Recommended reading:

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    Friday, October 08, 2010

    Near miss at North Sheen level crossing

    On Wednesday, a mother on a bicycle with a child on the back and another on a bike attempted to cross while the lights were flashing.

    They got trapped by the barriers and had to be helped out to safety by some bystanders who held the barriers.

    There is no emergency phone or "panic button" at the crossing.

    Such a crossing in a dense urban area is an accident waiting to happen. What will it take for action to be taken?

    See my previous posts on the level crossings:

    Thursday, September 30, 2010

    TfL still has little ideas about cycling lanes...

    A sobering read in today's Evening Standard on the Elephant & Castle roundabout redesign. It is described as a cycling blackspot where a a fitness instructor died on her bike last year.

    Yet, the proposal design still doesn't show segregated cycle lanes.

    Will they ever learn from best practices? All it takes is a trip to Rotterdam!

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    Is the FDA about to finally admit Europeans are right on antibiotics for cattle?

    cowbiotics.jpgFound this today:
    Is the FDA about to ban antibiotics for cows? Maryn McKenna explains ... - Boing Boing

    Here's why antibiotics in the food chain are harmful:

    Europe is far ahead of the United States in the responsible use of antibiotics. On January 1, 2006, the European Union banned the feeding of all antibiotics and related drugs to livestock for growth promotion purposes.

    Long-term, low-level feeding of antibiotics to animals, a practice common in U.S. livestock production, creates the ideal conditions for the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
    Source: European Union Bans Antibiotics for Growth PromotionAntibiotics in cattle

    So, it seems the FDA about to finally admit Europeans are right on antibiotics for cattle?

    How long will it take for them to also realise hormones are not a good idea either?

    Still on food, another bad practice tries to hide: Big Corn wants to change "High Fructose Corn Syrup" to "Corn Sugars"

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    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Do pigs fly? Apparently...

    G-MPSB Police Eurocopter EC145A police helicopter registered as G-MPSB flew over North Sheen and Kew for about two hours this afternoon (over Lower Richmond road, Bicester road, Manor grove, Sandycombe road and towards Chiswick bridge) and is back hovering above Kew tonight.

    Is that nuisance really needed? Can’t plod go on foot?

    Thursday, September 09, 2010

    The Boris bike vs. the French vélib -unfair comparison?

    I've meant to post on this for quite a while, being a bit of a pedal addict and a huge propoenent of common-sense-commuting, i.e. not taking the car when possible (unfortunately, I'm most often defeated by our antiquated transport system).

    Anyway, having tried the parisian Vélib' (and in passing got lost in Paris and almost missed my Eurostar), I thought I'd give a go to the Boris Bike. Nada, the scheme is closed and you need a key. Yep, a physical key that's sent to your house. By Royal Mail that is. Antiquated meets modern I suppose: who on earth at Tfail thought about this?

    Marta TrebickiSo I've registered and will tell you in a while which is a better ride. On the looks, some have already claimed Boris Bikes to be prettier (a nice chick riding one helps I suppose?). Others have pointed out that Boris Bikes lack a basket and a lock...

    Looks aside, from my humble point of view, the key points are pricing, availability and useability.
    • On useability of the scheme, the Parisian Vélib' is dead easy: you can subscribe with their equivalent of the Oyster card (the "pass Navigo") or just plonk your credit card in there. As for the London version, see above -you need a key! Paris 1-London 0.
    • Availability: I hears complaints in Paris and they surely had teething problems at the start but they seem to have the situation under control now, despite heavy vandalism (in two years, they've had to fix 3/4 of the bikes in circulation and over 15% have gone missing). And Paris being hillier than London, they've had to give some free credit to those dropping off bikes on top of the Montmartre hill. I'm not sure about London, the scheme being closed for now, but one thing is irking: they've put the bike stations at least 300 m away from any rail station. And they've also under-estimated the necessary shuffling to replenish deserted locations: BBC - Mind The Gap: 'White Van Man' haunts re-distribution of Boris bikes. Overall though, Boris Bikes are no match for the Velib': there are 750 stations in Paris (1750 with the suburbs), stocked with 20,000 cycles versus 315 and 5,000. Paris 2-London 0.
    • On pricing, it would not be massively different with each getting the first 30 mn free and then the first hour is EUR1 and GBP1, the first two hours are EUR7 and GBP6. What's different though is that you need to pay an access charge of £1 per 24 hours in London. That just makes it less intuitive, so I'm afraid London has to loose the last set as well. While we're on the subject of money, Paris did not invest taxpayer's money while Londoners forked £140... Who's more Socialist, Boris or Bertrand? Paris 3-London 0.
    What about you, what do you think?

    NB: check also the comparison on Pink Sauce, there's a nice table on that post.

    Monday, July 19, 2010

    Cycle superhighways: an expensive joke?

    Read this today:
    BBC News - Testing a London 'Cycle Superhighway'

    This sems to me a bit like a joke: there's still the same space sharing with cars issues as a Cycle Superhighway in Colliers Woodnormal cycle path, why did they bother?
    And I bet they also stop where they're most needed, i.e. narrow roads, junctions and bus stops.

    Anything short than a segregated bicycle route can hardly be considered as a improvement on the patchy terracota "cycle lanes" that typically stop where one needs them most: at junctions, bus stops, etc....

    The current state of cycling infrastructures is simply pathetic when compares to most European countries and an those blue lanes are nothing short of expensive joke.

    The government taxes very heavily motorists, mostly because they can and justifying itself on environmental values. Apart from the fact it's both wrong (CO2 is not a pollutant) and unfair (housing and industry are biggest polluters), the most frustrating is that little of this hoard goes back towards improving the infrastrucure and public transport.

    Friday, July 02, 2010

    The portakabin law

    Here's a new Law of building works: as soon as Portakabins are deployed, works will take at leat double the time.

    Here's the rationale: why indeed would builders move out when they're so well accomodated on a site?

    And there are the proofpoint:
    • the North Sheen recreation grounds, 4 portakabin, well over 9 months into building a new pavillion
    • the Barnes railway bridge refurb, 6? Portakabins and the towpath blocked on the southside for over 6 months
    • the Kew embankments works, 3 portakabins and over 9 months into it
    • the Lower Richmond rd pavement works, 2 portakabins since 3 months and not much visible work done

    If you're laughinhg, just think it's all your taxpayers money that is spent on overruns and metal containers, with kettles and tv to watch the footie during tea breaks...

    Monday, June 28, 2010

    How to con customers (and yes, supermarkets are very good at this)'s a post I long intended to do, and this one prompted me to:
    Nothing To Do With Arbroath: EU to ban selling eggs by the dozen

    Now, I think the EU needs to improve their PR (and yes, if they've got a grossly overpaid vacant position I'm up for it!): the whole point isn't about eggs, it's about selling two similar products with a different unit. For instance, Tescos's sells fruits -like lemons- by unit, by 6 and by weight. Sainsburys sells some yoghurt by weight and others by volumme.

    The shopper is often at pains (this is an euphemism) to compare prices, and I do think this is deliberate.

    Now, we've got to thank the EU for many things, including civil liberties (data protection rights), environment (air quality directive, see this post on why it's a good thing for instance with the proposed (and hopefully defunct Heathrow Expansion) and consumer rights (for instance on distance selling or unbundling or mobile telephony). But because it's easier to blame Brussels and take credit for oneself, the population is not sold on the benefits of having directives in the favour of the consumer.

    So, while I agree EMP's should have made exceptions for eggs for instance, I think prices should be easily made comparables between similar items in shops. And it's currently often not the case.

    Read also my previous posts:

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    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Some news on the level crossing: consultation next Thursday!

    The council just informed me that a public meeting will be held on the Manor Road level crossing, following that very ill advised planning application for a footbridge.

    In my previous post (At last: the North Sheen footbridge is coming... alas, this is not what you expected!) I explained that indeed someone came up with the ridiculous idea to set the footbridge across the street, opposite the station.

    See the invite below -do come to voice your ideas!

    (still no word from Susan Kramer on this...)



    Erection of a footbridge to facilitate a pedestrian crossing of the railway and installation of 1 no. CCTV mast with 2 no. Cameras.

    Town and Country Planning Act 1990

    Town and Country (General Development Procedure) Order 1995

    I write to advise you that the above application is to be considered by the Planning Committee on 1 July 2010. The meeting will commence at 6.30pm and be held in the Council Offices, York House, Richmond Road, Twickenham. The meeting is held in public and the Council has a procedure for representations to be made by members of the public and applicants to be made to the Committee: this is explained on the attached sheet. Please note that speakers should arrive at 6pm to liaise with the committee clerk.

    If you would like to put your views to the Committee personally please contact the Customer Support Centre at the Civic Centre, 44 York Street, Twickenham on 0845 612 2660 so that we can register your wish to speak. You will be given a registration number which you may be asked to quote to the Committee Clerk when you arrive at York House for the meeting. If you do not register your wish to speak before 12 noon on the day before the meeting you will not be allowed to speak. The written comments you have already submitted have been included in my officer's report. Any further written comments will be accepted until noon on the day before.

    Copies of the Committee Agenda and my officer's report will be available for inspection in Richmond's reference library five working days before the meeting and on the Council's website at If you go to your local library to see the report on the website, it will greatly assist if you take this letter with you.

    We have produced a short film to show first time speakers how the Planning Committee conducts its proceedings. The film is available in three formats, DVD, CD-Rom and VHS. Please ask for a copy in your chosen format when registering to speak. The film can also be viewed on our website.

    Yours faithfully

    Robert Angus

    Development Control Manager

    See my previous posts on the level crossings:

    Saturday, June 19, 2010

    The Kew fair...

    ... Is an old fashion village fayre, complete with ferris wheel, galloping horses, flying chairs, and lots of nice stalls -crafts and food

    Oh, and a fire engine and a band too!

    It's this week-end, make sure you drop in.

    Friday, May 21, 2010

    And here's how Richmond council enforces parking...

    With a mobile camera car (an all new Toyota IQ, probably replacing the Smart cars?), parked on a double yellow line.

    This is of course timed to cash in on parents dropping kids at school.

    Note that there's no lollipop man at Marshgate school, the council's priority is clearly revenue generation rather than safety...
    Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Quote of the day

    Map of London boroughs changingSometimes I like how a quote can be just flipped on its head, like that one:

    Tessa Jowell, Minister for London, said: "The people who came out and voted Labour are the people who use public services and know their importance and their value to their lives." (souce: Labour takes control of eight more London town halls, Evening Standard, 10/5/10)
    And taking the contrarian view, those who voted Conservative are the ones paying for those services?
    This isn't really a stretch from the imagination, especially considering that Richmond for instance gets less per head than other boroughs:
    It explained that we get less than £150 a year per resident from central government – less than any other borough - compared to the outer London average of over £400 a head. Neighbouring Wandsworth for example gets over £500 a head.  This means that our residents have to pay one of the highest Council Taxes in the country, despite having an efficient, low-spending council. (source: Extracts from Cllr Stephen Knight’s speech to council on 2 March 2010: recommending 0% increase tax increase)

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    Friday, May 07, 2010

    Another smash-and-grab robbery, in Richmond?

    Just walked past at lunchtime today what seemed to be the scene of a smash-and-grab robbery in Richmond.

    This comes right after the one at Westfields this week and is the last one of a series of audacious heists in London over the past months.

    Today's schocking attempt was at Courlanders, in George street, the last ones in Richmond were in Paved Court.

    Update - here's the RTT article: Motorcycle raiders carry out smash and grab attack at Courlanders jewellers

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    At last: the North Sheen footbridge is coming... alas, this is not what you expected!

    The planning application for the footbridge over the infamous Manor road level crossing has been filed here.

    Before your rejoice, I must add that it's not exacly what you were looking for...
    Indeed, as you can see from the picture on the left, the engineers have sited it on the wrong side -not where the existing footbridge is, but on the Richmond side.

    Which means anyone coming from the South (Upper Richmond road/Sheen road) would have to take one footbridge across, cross Manor road and then the other footbridge to get to the station.

    What kind of weird logic was in that engineer's mind?

    Also, as John pointed out on the Facebook group Stuck at North Sheen level crossing -it doesn't solve the misery for car users. Not surprising, as this aspect is not taken into account by the "Design & access statement" (who came up with such a document title?):
    In the mid 1990's the southern span of North Sheen station footbridge was removed leaving access to the station from the north side of the level crossing on Manor Road only. The barriers of the level crossing are closed for approximately 30 minutes in each hour and this has led to dangerous misuse through people twng to access the crossing whilst the barriers are lowered. A safer system of crossing the railway lines when the barriers are down is required. The
    introduction of the footbridge will remedy the safety problem at this location.
    Partial analysis, partial solution: the planning application is flawed because they only saw the issue with crossing, not the cars, not the stations access, nor there is any provision for cycle parking, people with pushchairs and cycles or disabled access.

    The Conservative candidate, surely seeing an opportunity to throw a spanner in one of Susan Kramer's campaings commented:
    I whole heartedly support the proposal for replacing this footbridge that was dismantled years ago leaving a ridiculous half bridge for the last 16 years. The proposed bridge will help commuters accessing the North Sheen Station.

    However the current proposal will do little to make life easer for other members of the community, mothers with young children and pushchairs, those that have difficulty walking or climbing, cyclist and those with heavy shopping.

    To approve the current design without listening to the excellent suggestions of the local community is a wasted opportunity to build better bridge that will serve the needs of more people in our community. After waiting 16 years for this bridge our community deserves a far better bridge.
    Can I urge that the decision on this application go to a full planning committee for approval as soon as possible to avoid any further delay but to allow consideration of local resident?s suggestions for better design, better location and better accessibility, thus making the bridge more of an asset to the whole community and less of an eyesore?

    It is a wasted opportunity not to consider the residents suggestions to improve the design ensuring it meets the councils own guidelines BLT 17 on designing out crime and fear of crime.

    It is a wasted opportunity not to consider the residents suggestions to improve the design of the bridge BLT 11.

    It is a wasted opportunity to not consider the residents suggestions on the location of the bridge to avoid the bridge overlooking residents properties.

    Best wishes

    Katharine Robinson
    Conservative Council Candidate for North Richmond
    Conservatives Caring and Campaigning for our Community.

    A political attack from someone we haven't heard much on this issue but I would find hard to agree with her points.

    Susan, what's next?

    See my previous posts on the level crossings:

    Friday, April 23, 2010

    Here's the new camera at North Sheen level crossing

    But no sign of a footbridge yet :-(

    Is that camera for cars jumping the lights in a bid to avoid being stuck for 20 mn? Does it work for schoolchildren too???

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    Join the Facebook group "Stuck at North Sheen level crossing"

    Just join:
    Facebook | Stuck at North Sheen Level Crossing
    See my previous posts on the level crossings and the footbridge...

    Do also check this BBC News footage, partly filmed at North Sheen:
    As far as I am concerned, it's all too easy for Network Rail to accuse people to be careless when a level crossing is down for up to 15 mn at the time and is located in a densely populated area.

    North Sheen level crossing belongs to a long bygone area and the line should be running in a covered trench at this place, leaving space for a commuters bicycle park and a more modern station for instance.

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    It's Monday, says the crab

    Rainbow crab in the Princess of Wales conservatory, Kew Gardens.

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    Friday, March 12, 2010

    Still waiting at the level crossing...

    At the North Sheen station / Manor road this morning.

    I'm not sure I understand the ambulance crew logic: if it's urgent, why go through a level crossing? If it's not, why the flashing lights?

    Anyhow, just another life level crossings cost lives (and a reminder we're waiting for that footbridge promised by Susan Kramer MP)

    See my previous posts on the level crossings.

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    WE break: what to do and see in Amsterdam?

    No, not that!

    Here are a few tips, in random order.

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    Thursday, February 04, 2010

    I could not say it better

    Saw the quote below in INTERVIEW: The Man in Seat 61... - Londonist:
    seat61.2.jpgIf you had a magic wand, what one thing would you do to improve London’s current transport problems?
    We urgently need Crossrail, and Thameslink 2000 (or is it 3000 by now?). Like the RER in Paris, this will bring suburban trains right through the centre of the city and out the other side, relieving the Underground and for many passengers, avoiding the need to switch from train to Tube at all. But whereas other countries seem to plan ahead, we Brits prefer things to reach crisis point before we do anything.

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    Tuesday, February 02, 2010

    Richmond gets its Michelin star!

    In the paper today: Richmond restaurant The Bingham awarded Michelin star (From This Is Local London)

    I've never been there and hope the prices won't increase!

    61-63 Petersham Road, Richmond, TW10 6UT, United Kingdom
    020 8940 0902

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    Wednesday, January 27, 2010

    More about the Richmond car park charges...

    Fury over ‘£3m cost’ of unwelcome car park charges (From Wandsworth Guardian)
    Implementing car parking charges in Richmond and Bushy parks will cost the Royal Parks Agency (RPA) nearly £3m – and will not make it a penny for more than six years, it has been claimed.
    My own views are here: Park Tax

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    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Park Tax

    As I was writing earlier (here Sign the petition to keep Richmond park free and there Another petition, for Bushy park) it seems that there will be another place (after it was imposed that it would no longer be free to park in Richmond on Sundays) where you can't escape the Parking tax:

    London Royal Parks parking fees approved (on
    I hope Susan Kramer will keep on the fight.

    Some think it's a good thing, I view this as NIMBY (see my comment on the post): Parking charges approved for Royal Parks :-).
    But overal parking charges in the park are hugely impopular. An unwanted impact is that the Borough will inevitably extend the Sheen CPZ to cover Fife road as it will be used by park-goers instead of the Sheen Gate car park. That's parking tax contagion!

    See also my previous posts: Kingston hospital parking and Blatant hypocrisy over parking spaces

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    Friday, January 15, 2010

    Oyster on National Rail but not in stations

    So you can use your Oyster card in the trains around London... but you can't buy one in Richmond station -despite it being a District line terminus.

    Hum, not too good...

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    Friday, January 08, 2010

    The circle line now runs to Hammersmith

    Good news for commuters, as it increases the frequency.

    I've never understood why they never joined the two Hammersmith tube stations though?

    Side note: this picture show the different gauges of the LU -incompatible rolling stock doesn't help with reliability, line extensions, etc...

    Tuesday, January 05, 2010

    Integrated transport anyone?

    Tower BridgeOne of the most frustrating aspects of the transport system in London, apart from its high-cost (busses went from 70p to an eye watering £2 in just a few years) and unreliablility, is the lack of integration. There are many examples -just look at a tube map to see where rail stations don't connect with the tube, like in Putney for instance: that one is quite frustrating as both lines actually intersect but instead of building an interchange above the train line, commuters have get out of the station and walk 200 feet. Or, why is the Waterloo & City line not extended to Moorgate and then through using National Rail tracks? And South?

    Some things are improving though: from yesterday, the Oyster card is accepted on National Rail (except to Heathrow, etc). At last you may say...

    There's some more scope for improvement though. For instance, this Evening Standard column suggests using the Thames a proper highway.

    In under three years, and for an initial outlay of just £30 million, we can create a new, waterborne Tube line, with a frequent service of high-speed boats at 20 piers from Putney to Woolwich. That is about a quarter of the time, and less than a hundredth of the money, that a similar project would need on land.
    Would Boris dare?

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